Election series article # 1: Mana Party pushes working class issues this election

October 2, 2011

Drawn from our experiences in Mana this article by Jared Phillips puts forward a socialist appraisal of the party so far. Originally published in the October issue of the Spark.

Formation of the Mana Party
The Maori Party, after going into government with the National and Act parties fell into line and became supportive of anti-working class policies such as increasing GST (a consumer tax). As Maori Party MP for Te Tai Tokerau (the Northern-most Maori electorate) Hone Harawira opposed this and he wrote publically against the direction of the Maori Party. This is one example of how Hone stood out by not conforming to political pressure. It led to an internal dispute within the Maori Party in which Hone – in parliamentary terms – was in a minority.

Essentially the Maori Party was a cross-class party, meaning it had no defined orientation to the working class and little orientation to working class or poor Maori in contrast to layers of Maori bourgeoisie. Our own socialist group was clear about this in relation to the Maori Party. However, we lacked the long-term political foresight to see that the class differences in the Maori Party would likely result in a rupture on class and social justice lines.

A further important catalyst for the formation of the Mana Party was the introduction of the Marine and Coastal (Takutai Moana) Act 2011 by the National/Act/Maori parliamentary majority. The Takutai Moana Act repealed Labour’s Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004 (F&S Act). Labour’s F&S Act had dispossessed Maori of the right to take a case regarding title over foreshore and seabed areas to the Maori Land Court, a right which had been won in a Court of Appeal case. Whilst the F&S Act brought all such areas under Crown ownership (aside from areas with private title), the Takutaimoana Act brings such areas under ‘common ownership’ meaning such areas cannot be owned. Therefore there is still no right for Maori to claim title over such areas, although there is a right to make claims for protected custody rights. Maori-led criticism of the Act is also based on the extraordinarily high threshold of proof showing customary use dating back to 1840 that is required in order to acquire protected custody under the Act. This led to a significant support and membership departure from the Maori Party to the Mana Party and to a more forceful insistence on Treaty-based rights.

Separate to the above-described process, and on a smaller scale, another process had been taking place since October 2010 involving leftists. There were some discussions amongst leftists – of both the far-left and of left-social democratic persuasion – about the idea of forming a new left party. There were media rumours about a new party being formed by Sue Bradford and Matt McCarten. The most formal of these discussions took place at a left dialogue meeting at the end of Unite Union’s first national conference in November 2011. Generally there was an apprehension about the formation of a new left party because of the low level of class struggle in New Zealand. Matt McCarten of Unite and Joe Carolan of Socialist Aotearoa were amongst the strongest in favour of proceeding with such a project.

When the contradiction between the Maori Party and Harawira came to a conclusion, many of those who had participated in the ‘new left party’ discussion, and others from active left tendencies, took an open approach to Mana and most soon decided to participate, help build, and make a contribution to shape the Mana Party. Read the rest of this entry »


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